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Sep. 21st, 2011

Witch, Please! My take on Scott Tracey's debut novel!

I really enjoyed this new book published by FLUX. Feuding witch families, star-crossed gay male couple, hellhounds, shape shifters, mysterious town, etc. What's not to like?

The main character, Braden, had a humorous and interesting voice ("Angst was a bitch to get out of leather," LOL) and the story moves ahead at a brisk pace, with enough twists and turns to hold reader interest until the end.

There's enough resolution in this novel to satisfy, while at the same time leaving the door open for future installments.

I also love that the novel embraces diversity by having a gay male protagonist and love interest, and treats it as matter of fact. We need more books like this!

I definitely Give a "Bel-Dam(n)" and will be looking forward to the next entry in this series.

Sep. 18th, 2011

Medeia Sharif's novel is one of The Bestest. Debuts. Ever!

 I just finished reading this book and loved it! 

I felt it was very humorous, at the same time that it explored a complex subject matter. I also truly appreciate books with diverse characters and applaud both the author and the publisher for releasing a novel that strays from what most mainstream publishers would consider marketable.

The heroine, 15 Year-old Muslim teenager, Almira Abdul, faces issues that teenagers of many cultures and sexual orientations can relate to, including trying to reconcile a social/romantic life with a family that doesn't get who you really are to the point where you have to hide it in front of them for fear of reprisals.

It also tackled the teen angst issue of having a crush on someone that your best friend likes, and having to weigh the importance of choosing between losing a longtime friendship over someone you don't truly know.

This author definitely knows how to balance light-hearted fun with deeper issues and I'm definitely looking forward to reading her next book and seeing what she comes up with next! You can purchase it here: http://www.amazon.com/Bestest-Ramadan-Ever-Medeia-Sharif/dp/0738723231/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1316488082&sr=8-1


Jul. 17th, 2011

The New Harry Potter Movie: You Always Remember Your Last Time!

I debated whether or not I should share my opinion about a film that’s review proof. I mean, really. No matter what I say, people are going to flock to the theaters like The Birds to a Tippi Hedren buffet.  In the end, the attention whore within got the best of me. But I’ll keep this review as short as Paris Hilton’s musical recording career (Stars are Blind, anyone? If only they were deaf).

Most of you are already familiar with the storyline of the Harry Potter book and film series that has captivated millions around the globe for over a decade. That is, unless you’ve been living under a rock, been comatose, or homeschooled by people who think J.K. Rowling is the Antichrist herself, sent to indoctrinate their children into a world of evil, witchcraft and demons. I mean, who cares if Rowling motivated millions of kids, and adults, to read through her enchanting stories? Hell is apparently filled with literate people, unlike the other place.  Whom would you rather spend eternity with?

For those who simply haven’t gotten around to reading or seeing the films for whatever reason, I’ve prepared this handy reference guide to the previous entries:

1) Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stoned

2) Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secretions

3) Harry Potter and The Prisoner of AssGrabbin

4) Harry Potter and The Gonads on Fire

5) Harry Potter and The Order of the Kleenex

6) Harry Potter and The Full-Blood Prince Albert

7) Harry Potter and The Completely Swallows

Oops. My Bad. I was looking at a <cough> <cough> different list for my collection.

This latest release of the epic film conclusion, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2: The Golden Cash Cow, is exciting, very dark and filled with more twists and turns than the Casey Anthony trial, except with a much more satisfying ending.

I won’t say too much about the plot here, except that it revolves around Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his besties, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint) & Hermoine Granger (Emma Watson), who are searching for the remainder of the seven WhoreCrusties that will enable them to destroy Voldemort (aka He Who Must Not be Named, aka Oh No He Didn’t). Apparently, Voldemort was pretty randy in his younger years and left a…uh…little part of himself inside seven of these WhoreCrusties…mmm hmmm.)

Along the way, Harry, Ron, & Hermoine encounter the legend of The Deathly Hallows, Three magical (surprise!) objects  given to three brothers by Death itself, played without makeup and in an unbilled cameo by Betty White (okay, not really). One of these Hallows is the Elder Wand, also known as Elderly Headmaster Dumbledore’s funstick.

Caution, you may need a diagram to figure out how the Elder Wand gets passed down from one user to the next. It’s infinitely more complicated than say, Herpes transmission.

Will Harry and the forces of good succeed in getting their Valtrex on and destroying the WhoreCrusties and the Evil Oh No He Didn’t during the epic battle of GenitalWarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? You can find out for yourself in this breathtaking, brilliantly paced, visually stunning piece of film making, sure to weave its spells on audiences everywhere.

And take my advice, don’t be cheap and spring for the extra $175 a ticket IMAX 3D thingy. It’s well worth it to experience this flick the way it was meant to be seen, with visuals that will make you flourish your wand until blindness ensues, and sound that will pop your ear drums until they hemorrhage right into your popcorn.

Now THAT’S Entertainment!

Until next time, when I keep the REELS, REAL!

Jul. 11th, 2011

Sailing the Seven Seas Aboard NCL’s Norwegian Sigh. Uh, I Mean Sky

This past weekend I embarked upon an epic journey, a harrowing voyage that would seemingly take me to the ends of the earth, on a quest as vast in its mythic proportions as the search for the Lost Ark itself…

Trying to find a friggin place to sit in the ship’s Garden Café during meal times, which on board this tub translates to 24/7!

But I’m getting ahead of myself. So pop some Dramamines and swab your Poop Decks, because we’re about to hit a rough patch, the kind that’s immune to penicillin, if you get my drift. Get it? Ocean? Drift?

The cruise to Great Stirrup Cay and Nassau, Bahamas started innocently enough, but then again, I’m sure Stalin and Mussolini did, too. We were amongst the first to board by noon, already wearing our bathing suits beneath our clothes, and hurried Aft (that’s fancy ship talk for Back of the Bus) so we could soak in some rays poolside, and have a snack before the ravenous hoards descended upon us, prior to setting sail at 5pm.

Side Note: I’m not sure why they use such a romantic and poetic term as Setting Sail to describe the rumble of gas turbine and diesel-electric engines and propellers utilized to move approximately 71,500 tons through the ocean. I’m not talking about the weight of the ship here, but rather Mr. & Mrs. Stay Puft Marshmallow, already wedged into their lounge chairs and on their 200th biscuit. Well, at least they were dipping them into cottage cheese—oh, my mistake…it was cellulite.

You see, Norwegian Cruise Lines employs what they call Freestyle cruising. In a nutshell, it means passengers can eat as if food is going out of style (i.e. Chugging pancake syrup, IVs filled with hamburgers and hot dogs, French Fry shakes, etc.). I even spied a couple of people stuffing desserts into colostomy bags, you know, just in case they got the munchies between the time they left the trough and arrived at the watering hole.

This Freestyle policy obviously extends to fashion as well (Yeah, I’m talking to you, Sir Sasquatch, wearing the neon purple banana hammock, while puffing on a cigar the size of the ship’s smokestack). Free for All, would probably be more of an apt term, except of course when you get your bill at the end with all the added charges and gratuities, but I’m digressing again.

Things began to take a turn for the iceberg when the live music started up, performed, ironically, by the group, the Ironics. I guess they got their name based on the fact that this is what zombies, aka the Walking Dead, would sound like if they decided to form a band and perform “Live.” We were treated to such peppy, party-hearty numbers as Imagine, Let it Be, My Heart Will Go On, and Nearer, My God to Thee. Gentlemen, it has been an honor playing with you, indeed. Needless to say, I needed Colonics, just to get Ironics, out of my system for the rest of the cruise. But if you need someone to perform at a funeral or a Will Reading gig, I’d definitely recommend them.

Then, we struck the iceberg. That’s right. The bane of my shipboard existence made her first appearance, the clang of her South African accented voice deafening to my ears. I can still hear it echoing in my mind, digging into my brain like rusty ice picks. The Cruise Director from Hell herself, Miss Apartheid 1991…CANDI!!!!!!

That’s right, Candi, as in too much rots your teeth. Short for Candida, the yeastlike fungi which causes athlete’s foot, vaginitis, thrush, and a host of other infections.

 Now perhaps it sounds like I’m being a tad too harsh here. But how else am I supposed to react when I’m awakened at 5:00am, morning after morning, by Candi’s incessant prattling on the intercom system, telling me Wut a lov-lie day it’s gonna be and asking, Are you gonna PAH-TEE Hahd? Now at first I was like, “Well, I guess now that you woke me up after only three hours sleep, I really do have to use the Potty hard.”

By the way, what good is a Do Not Disturb sign on your door when Candi can just intrude on your sleep any time she chooses and molest your ears? It’s soooo violating!

After roasting in the sun for a few hours, I checked our radiation levels on my handy iPhone Geiger Counter App. Satisfied we were just above the red line, we decided to shower and change and consult the itinerary for the rest of the evening’s festivities. Hmmm. It was going to be a very tough decision: A Seminar on Detox & Weight Loss in the Aerobic Room ,  Free Liquor and Rum Cake Tasting at the Gift Shop (Hah! Now THAT’S Ironic!), and Violin Melodies with Lydia at Captain Cook’s. We were torn. How dare you, NCL, to stress us out with such a difficult choice! Ultimately, we opted on the Friends of Dorothy meeting at the Atrium.

Now in case you’re wondering who Friends of Dorothy are, here’s a hint: They’re not the Scarecrow, the Tin Man or the Cowardly Lion (though I think I spotted those three fighting their way through the buffet line earlier, that is, until The Stay Pufts thought the trio were on the menu and proceeded to eat them).

Psssst! Friends of Dorothy is code for GLBTXYZPDQLMNOP (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Xylophone, etc.) and it’s discretely placed on the itinerary next to the full page rainbow flag and the “We’re Here, We’re Queer, and We’re Hungry” slogan. But don’t tell anyone I let you in on the secret or my membership will be revoked and I’ll have to return the nifty toaster 4G cellular tablet I received when I was indoctrinated.

There are also other secret groups listed on the itinerary, right under unsuspecting eyes. There’s the Friends of BILL W (kind of a masochistic, floating AA session which meets at one of the ship’s many bars), as well as Friends of Paula “My Left Arm’s Hurting, Ya’ll” Dean, where participants discover how even the furniture’s edible, as long as its fried and coated in grease and fat.

Anyway, we met a great bunch of people at the Friends of Dorothy meeting, but I promised I’d keep their identities confidential so I’ll use code names, lest their identities be exposed and their subversive activities be compromised.

First, there was Gilligan, a charming, fun, witty, event planner, determined to find his own S.S. Minnow to dock with.  

Next, Mary Ann and Ginger, an adorable, vivacious lesbian couple into spirituality and veganism—when they weren’t Dirty Dancing and pounding down the booze.

I guess that would make Yours Truly The Professor, for my sharp wit and vast knowledge (cough) and my travel companion, The Skipper, because he likes to crack the whip.

Completing The Friends of Dorothy were The Howells, Thurston and Lovey, who spent much of their time at the Sky Casino observing the drunken antics of the steerage class.

There were also Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, but they seemed to tire of us after that first meeting. So you might say, the group lost its wood.

The remainder of us Dorotheans quickly bonded, spending hours plotting how we were going to convert everyone on Earth, and discussing such scintillating topics as Towel Animal Folding, which really creeped me out, especially because of the eerie punch-hole-residue eyes. Every time we’d go back to our cabin, you never knew what kind of critter Housekeeping would have set up on your bed. I swear we got Charlie Sheen once.

Meeting up with our new friends was a Godsend—or, just a Send, if you’re like Ginger, and an atheist. Our adventures entailed discovering the wonders of the ships multi-themed bars, which included A Tribute to Divas, All Request DJ Power Hour, Country Hits, 70’s Groove Dance Party, South Beach Rave Party, Late Night Party Zone, etc.

Sounds like fun, right? And NCL has made it really convenient for you by condensing all these themes into ONE bar. That’s right. You heard me. ONE BAR.

Drum roll, please…

DAZZLES! That’s its name. It’s like the big bang, the Creation of the Universe. The Holy Grail. It’s the quintessential bar, of which all bars have descended from. It’s the magnetic north of the Norwegian Sky. You lose your itinerary? Not a problem. Just make your way on down to DAZZLES. Everything happens there! And the themes are conveniently scheduled at fifteen minute intervals, so in the span of an hour, you can get your disco, country, rock, and ballroom dancing groove on.

On Day 2, we attended the White Hot Dance Party poolside, which was lots of fun and dancing, until Candi swooped in, on Industrial-Sized wings, no less, like an escaped Lane Bryant Christmas Angel. First, she pumped her fists in the air, shouting over and over again, “PAH-TEE! PAH-TEE!” Then, it felt like a Special Needs Disco party, with Candi, parroting every lyric, lest we forget to “Raise our hands in the air” or “Shake it!” It was so thoughtful of her to explain it to us. Like Simon Says for Dummies. I kept hoping a tropical storm wind would strike and whisk her away, but the only way those thighs were going up in the air was with a lot more alcohol and a not-too-picky date.

On Day 3, the final night of the cruise, The Friends of Dorothy participated in the Adult Quest Game Show. Basically, the audience is split into numbered teams, and the two geek emcees take turns asking for each team to produce an item on their list or perform a task that’s intended to be provocative and elicit drunken giggles, i.e. show your bra, your thong, have girls make out with other girls (which of course the hosts and the audience loved) and, shock of all shocks, guys make out with other guys, (which of course the hosts had to remind us we’d been warned of the shocking nature of the show and hoped we wouldn’t need therapy). Ah, I just love homophobic double standards, don’t you? Maybe I’ll suggest for the next cruise, they add a find-someone-of-another-race-and-make-out-with-them challenge. That would be a hoot! That is, if it’s not too detrimental to the emotional well-being of gluttonous and promiscuous drunks. Snap!

Despite some relatively minor irritations (cough…Candi…cough), we had a great time, and meeting Gilligan, Mary Ann, Ginger, Thurston, and Lovey was well worth it! You guys rock! I look forward to becoming lifelong friends—just don’t forget to buy my book! ;-)

Now you will excuse me, there’s a certain Cruise Director I need to prank call. See how she likes being woken up out of a sound sleep.

Are you ready to PAH-TEE, HAHD, BITCH???”

Jul. 1st, 2011

Transformers 3: Show Me Your Backsides and Call it A Moon

Make no mistake. I was hardly expecting a cinematic masterpiece when I decided to see this film. After all, it’s based on a line of Hasbro toys. Heck, I don’t even think I saw the second one (Transformers 2: Revenge of The I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up), because the first installment left me feeling all root-canal-ly. 

But after all the positive buzz for this latest film, I was feeling frisky and easy.  I decided to unlock my chastity belt and let Director Michael Bay ravage me one more time. I even sprung for the popcorn myself. After all, this movie is being hailed as the best of the threesome.

Hmmm. That’s like saying Charles Mansion is better than Jeffrey Dahmer or John Wayne Gacy, because he didn’t snack on his victims or dress like an evil clown. I still wouldn’t want to be set up on a blind date with him, let alone meet the family. Yeah, I know this comparison is a tad melodramatic and unfair (to the killers, that is), but this movie just didn’t do it for me.

The plot (Hah!)  goes something like this: Shia LaBeouf, (pronounced LeGoof) who plays Sam NitPicky (or is it Sam WikiPedia, whatever), after having saved the world twice before, can’t seem to find a job. Given Shia’s acting chops, this should come as no surprise. If only reality could imitate art (more like F-ART in this case).

Before you know it, the Autobots (We’ll call’em the Good Transformers) led by Prime Rib and Bumble Bee Tuna, have to…wait for it…shock of all shocks…fight the bad Transformers, known as Decepticons—as in Deceived and Conned, which is what I felt like after plunking down $15 bucks for this.

These dastardly villains are led by Mega-Con and Shlockwave in a plot that revolves around a big conspiracy involving the super secret reason we sent astronauts up to the moon in 1969. The “film makers” (and I use the term as loosely as diarrheal stool) even stoop to using archival footage of Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, as well as Astronaut Buzz Aldrin, to further this conspiracy plot, and these historic figures are probably rolling over in their graves…Oops! Aldrin is still living. Didn’t mean to be a Buzz kill. Get it? Cough-Cough.

Gone from the franchise is fired Megan “I don’t know when to keep my trap shut” Fox (crushed—NOT!), replaced by Rosie Huntington-Whitely, as new love interest, Carly (Who Dat??). After all, Shia needs a hot model love interest that’s three feet taller than him (Seeing them standing next to each other onscreen reminded me of Chelsea Lately and Chuy). 

John Malkovich (as Sam’s new  and unhinged boss, Bruce Brazos) and Frances McDormand (as bug-up-her-butt government agent Mearing) are truly wasted in this film (actually, maybe they were literally wasted when they agreed to appear in this), and Patrick Dempsey goes from McDreamy to McCrappy in three seconds flat as Carly’s snobby boss, Dylan.

I suppose children might enjoy this, as well as intellectually challenged and/or inebriated adults. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a movie snob and I can be a big kid at times. And I’m definitely open to movies based on toys …uh…(don’t even go there!), but 2 ½ hours of cringe-worthy dialogue and endless explosions gets old faster than all of Hef’s posse (That’s P-O-S-S-E!). There’s maybe a half an hour of this flick I enjoyed, right around the time of a betrayal scene I won’t spoil. But in the end, when it mercifully came, it felt like I’d been the one betrayed.

I normally advise readers to stay during the end credit sequence for additional scenes, but in this case, why prolong anyone’s agony? I may be a cynic but I’m not downright cruel! And besides, no matter what I say, this flick’s gonna make a bazillion catrillion dollars anyway…sigh.

Until next time, when I keep The Reels, REAL!

Jun. 27th, 2011

SCBWI Orlando Conference Part 1: Road Trip!

Last Thursday, June 23, I embarked on an epic journey with my trusty comrades Marjetta Geerling and Mindy Alyse Weiss, across a treacherous landscape to reach an elusive foreign land—that’s code for taking our lives in our hands driving on the Florida Turnpike to Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort (which seems to be located in some mystical dimension that wreaks havoc with GPS navigation systems like that island on LOST).

The first clue that we were going to be in for a bumpy ride was when Marjetta picked me up and we consulted her GPS (hence known as Gotta Pee Soon!) to find Mindy’s address. The problem was, the darn contraption couldn’t figure out what our starting point was and must have routed us like we were in Nome, Alaska—not to be confused with that village of little drunken garden dwellers.

After calibrating our equipment (aka screaming and shaking it in frustration with a slam or two against the dashboard for good measure) we were off!

It was great being in the car and catching up with Marjetta…who cares that we had to shout over the annoying Gotta Pee Soon robotic voice constantly telling us we had to make a U-turn or something, and the incessant dinging of its warning bells that sounded like an overzealous altar boy summoning the Holy Spirit? Marjetta says there’s a pattern to the bells: One ding means you’re approaching your exit, two dings means you should turn, and three dings means you accomplished your task.

I propose a new method. Rather that a Quasi-Modo-type alert and reward system, how about if monotone-robotic-voice-chick just screeches out: 

Hurry up and get in the left lane or you’ll miss your turn!


You were too busy talking and/or texting and you missed your exit, Dumbass!

I think that’d be much more effective than clanging bells, but that’s just me.

About an hour later (approximately 70% hoarse now), we arrived at Mindy’s, where we got all Sunday-Schooly and re-enacted biblical scripture. You heard the one in Matthew 19:24 about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich dude making it through the pearly gates? Apparently, good ‘ole Matty never tried to fit several large suitcases and a passenger into the backseat of Marjetta’s car. Loo-Yah!

We were off at last! How do three writers effectively pass the next four hours confined to a car? Do we discuss our craft? World politics? Social Issues? The evolving cultural dynamic of present society?

Heck No!

Seventeen Magazine Traumarama, baby!

That’s right. Marjetta and I have discovered that teen gossip rags provide a valuable insight into our target audience. Not only do magazines such as Seventeen, Teen Vogue, Ha! Ha! I’m Younger Than You, Bitch, etc. provide coping skills to survive embarrassing moments (i.e. What do you do when you wet-fart in front of your crush while wearing a skimpy white bathing suit? Oh My!), they also forge life-long friendships and assured that Marjetta, Mindy, and myself would be BFFs for life!—or at least until the end of the conference, whichever comes first.

Sometime later (it’s hard to tell because of the time displacement factor created when one travels through another dimension) we found ourselves on East Buena Vista Drive…or was it West Buena Vista Drive? Do I hear a North? A South? You see, our Gotta Pee Soon! started going all Stacey Anthony on us, changing its tune with each passing second. Marjetta and I exchanged panicked glances—it was happening again! On previous visits we’d gotten lost in this exact same area. It couldn’t be a coincidence! Tip for anyone in need of the Buena Vista Fire Station: Just input the address for the Coronado Springs Resort and you’ll end up at the fire station, I promise!

I was forced to go all twentieth-century and actually call the hotel and ask for directions! The nerve! The woman who answered was very gracious, until she concluded our conversation by telling me to “Have a Magical Day.” To the uninitiated, this may sound cute, dare I say adorable? But anyone who’s spent any time at Disney knows this is akin to telling someone to perform an impossible reproductive act (well, unless you’re a hermaphrodite).

Finally, we arrived at Coronado Springs (though now that I think of it, I don’t recall seeing any Springs, unless you count those fountains that look like lions puking up the Tequila they had the night before). Mindy had done the Express registration thingy online, woo-hoo, but Marjetta and I have a more laid back approach (i.e. we’re lazy) and had to stand in the slacker line. But as fate, and the laws of Disney bureaucracy would have it, we ended up registering at pretty much the same time Mindy did, so nonny, nonny, boo, boo, to you! Hey, we’re BFFs so I’m allowed to be snarky!

The young woman at the registration desk (I think her name was Mamby—or was it Pamby? Probably Bambi) informed us in her best Stepford-Wife-ese that it was her last day of training (Oh, Joy, someone that doesn’t know what they’re doing!), and whipped out a map that looked like something Columbus might have consulted back in the day. She then proceeded to mark it up like a Super Bowl playbook. Basically, the resort is divided into individual numbered buildings called Casitas (You know, to create that authentic third world feel), and we’d hit the jackpot and been placed in Casitas No. 10,007, only four days away from the main conference center by animatronic burro.

After expressing our concern to Bambi that the room was too far away from the workshops, she informed us that buildings 1-3 were now considered premium rooms (i.e. you have to pay more to be in the same time zone) but reluctantly (or was she just constipated?) moved us to Casitas No. 4. On the drive toward the building, my mind was racing with such questions as:

Will there be potable water in the room, or is non-lethal bacteria an extra fee?

Did that sign say Chupacabra Crossing?

It’s a little early for monsoon season, isn’t it?

But we finally reached our room in one piece, rejoicing we had survived and the next adventure was about to begin!

Tune in next time, when the conference actually begins and I recount all the glory of the Intensives (including my specialized Sun & Tan Intensive), as well as the wondrous day of workshops, complete with an all-star cast!

Jun. 18th, 2011

GREEN LANTERN leaves some critics Green With Envy...or Nausea

Despite what the critics are saying, GREEN LANTERN will see green at the box office. Make no mistake. This film isn’t perfect (surprise!), but it’s a fun summer romp (kinda like Danny and Sandy had Pre-GREASE), that delivers kernels of popcorn fun, boasting colorful special effects, and faithfully embraces its comic book roots.

Let’s face it, with supporting characters such as a billowing cloud of evil smoke named Ex-Lax…uh…I mean Parallax (not to be confused with the smoke monster on LOST) and fellow Lantern guardian Sinestro (Hmmm…I wonder if he’s going to turn out to be...I don't know...uh... sinister? Tee Hee…), it would be easy for this movie to devolve into Adam West Batman-Camp-Fest-territory. I almost expected there'd be a Jar Jar Binks-like Jack O'Lantern (Get it? Lantern?) character. But the film straddles that slippery slope better than a politician on Twitter, managing to be fun, without setting up camp at Yellowstone.

In a nutshell, the story revolves around the Green Lantern Corps, a group of intergalactic warriors powered by the force of will (i.e. fighting the urge to take a pee break in Titanic), that are headquartered on the distant planet of Oa (somewhere in Hawaii, I think). When Parallax escapes confinement and attacks head honcho Lantern guardian Abin Sur (not to be confused with the Al Qaeda operative), the powers of the ring are transferred to cocky-Earth-test-pilot-stud Hal Jordan, played charmingly by Ryan Reynolds, who looks stunning both in the CGI Green Lantern suit, as well as in his birthday suit (well, almost—but he works those tighty-whities briefly…hehehe…get it? Brief-ly?).

Meantime, geeky scientist Hector Hammond (played by Peter Sarsgaard), who also happens to have a thing for Jordan’s lifelong friend, fellow-pilot, and potential love interest Carol Ferris (played by unlikely Blake Lively…I made a rhyme!), becomes infected by a PTD (Parallax Transmitted Disease). With the evil Parallax threatening to smoke out the Green Lantern Corps from the Universe, and Hammond wreaking havoc on earth, the stage is set for Hal Jordan to grow a Green Pair and prove he has what it takes to get over his childhood trauma and assume his spandexed place in the universe, complete with bejazzled ring accessories. Can he do it? Hmmm.

Yes, this movie isn’t an intellectual masterpiece, neither was Thor (which I originally thought was about a man with a lisp describing a muscle ache). But it delivers the summer goodies and even pokes fun at its own genre, as in a scene between Reynolds and Lively, which takes a shot at the typical superhero cliché of not being able to recognize someone you know well, simply because they are wearing a partial face mask (or glasses in the case of Clark Kent and Lois Lane). And, as should be expected these days, make sure you stay through the end credits for an extended scene which provides a clue as to what a GREEN LANTERN sequel might entail (no, It doesn't involve a St. Patty's day gone awry)—should the studios get enough green in their bank accounts.

So check your cynic in at the door and enjoy GREEN LANTERN for what it is, an entertaining, sparkling little emerald gem that doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not, unlike most matches on those dating sites---long walks on the beach? Hopeless romantic? REALLY? Not that I’m speaking from experience of course.

Until next time, when I continue to keep the Reels, Real!

Jun. 11th, 2011

SUPER 8? More like a Value-Sized 3!

Ever since I saw the trailers for this film a few months back, I was intrigued by this J.J. Abrams/Steven Spielberg collaboration, which looked to be trying to recapture a snippet from the E.T./Goonies/Close Encounters of the Third Kind era of movies (uh…not that I was actually old enough to remember THOSE films upon their first release <cough> <cough> but I have seen them on DVD and talked to the Old Timers about them).

With a group of adventurous and precocious kids, a horrific train wreck that unleashes a big, violent scary something upon a small, unsuspecting Apple Pie Town, mysterious disappearances, a military conspiracy, and a boy and his dad coping with a tragic loss, how could you go wrong?


My biggest problem with this movie is that, in trying to emulate a bygone era, it creates a cinematic error, failing to recapture the magic of those films it seeks to pay homage to. Who can forget Elliot and E.T.’s bike ride across a bloated moonlit sky? Or Richard Dreyfuss staring awestruck as the ginormicus mother ship pops a squat over The Devil’s Tower?

SUPER 8 feels like a black and white photocopy of a brilliant 8 X 10 color glossy (Oh, that’s before they took digital pictures and used to use something called film stock, or so I’m told by the old fogies).

There are no powerful moments in this film like its theatrical ancestors, no sense of urgency (like trying to make it through Return of the King without a potty break and an about to burst bladder), no tear-jerking moments to embarrass you into wiping your eyes before the theater lights come on and everyone sees what a sentimental mound of mush you really are.

The children deliver somewhat entertaining performances, most notably Joel Courtney as Joe Lamb, the film’s young hero, who must come to term with a loss in the family, even as his young heart beats with the primordial stirrings of his first crush on Alice Dainard, played by Elle Fanning (Yes, as in Ms. Dakota). I know, really heavy stuff for the Hannah Montana crowd.

There is a mildly interesting subplot involving the group of kids filming a zombie movie with a Super 8 camera (stay through the opening credits to see a much more satisfying bonus film ;-)

But as a whole, the plot is holier than Vatican City and Jerusalem combined. And don’t get me started on Director Abrams incomprehensible need to add Computer Generated blue light lens flares into practically every frame, particularly right before the train wreck scene. Hehe…train wreck…I get it now…that scene is an entire metaphor for the whole damn movie!

In case you’ve fallen asleep during this review, consider that at least you didn’t pay 11 bucks to do so. And in case you’re too dense to figure it out, I’m not recommending this movie. But if someone gives you the DVD as a gift, you can always pop it in AND use it as a shiny new coaster when you wake up!

Until next time, when I’ll probably be reviewing the new GREEN LANTERN flick or maybe another book. I haven’t decided yet, but you’ll definitely be the first to know!

Jun. 8th, 2011

My New Review Column! Are you WITH ME OR WITHOUT ME?

As I continue to toil on a comedy spec script under the harsh whip of my television writing partner (aka Fantine’s foreman in Les Miz), and begin prep work on a new novel project (i.e. scramble for something else to write), I’ve been making time to catch up on some Young Adult novels and theatrical releases (aka procrastinating on the writing projects).

This has prompted me to decide to write reviews of books and movies and post them here, hopefully, on a regular basis (because a blog without any content is like an octogenarian male without Viagra). If your novel or film doesn’t make it onto my blog, have no fear. It doesn’t mean I thought it sucked or anything (even though it might). More than likely it just means I’m pressed for time and will be squeezing in these reviews when I can (I can’t even type the latter with a straight face).

Have no fear. I will endeavor to keep my reviews Spoiler Free…unless the material is so absolutely atrocious I feel it is my sacred duty to help you save your hard earned cash.

First up, Brian Farrey’s new Young Adult novel, With or Without You.

I’m happy to report, I was With Him, all the way!

The basic premise revolves around recent Wisconsin High School grads Evan and his best childhood friend Davis, long time victims of homophobic bullying. Unbeknownst to Davis, as well as Evan’s family, is the existence of Evan’s boyfriend, Erik, an artistic, sexy, compassionate man who represents all of Evan’s dreams—and insecurities.

When Evan and Davis are approached to join a clandestine group which promises to give them the strength to fight back against the duo’s oppressors, known ominously as The Chasers, it sets about a dramatic chain of events that forever alters the bonds of friendship, family, and romantic commitment, as the characters struggle with cutting loose from their past in order to have a chance at altering their destinies.

Mr. Farrey has crafted a tale that not only demonstrates a fascinating character study, but also illustrates the dichotomy of coping mechanisms for bullying, differing family dynamics, touches upon gay history in the United States, as well as the arts, and provides one of the most romantic and realistic relationships in current Young Adult novels, which also happens to be the type of pairing that, unfortunately, still does not get the exposure it so richly deserves in Young Adult literature, i.e. the same gender romantic relationship between Evan and his boyfriend, Erik.

Side note to Industry: It’s the 21st Century. Not only do gay teens enjoy reading Boy/Boy romance, but heterosexual teen girls do, too! GLEE anyone? But I digress.

The novel’s prose is crisp, concise, and the story is cleverly framed like an art piece in descriptions of Evan’s glass paintings, childhood flashbacks, and hilarious news headlines, that serve to augment the power of the present story quite effectively.

I promised I wouldn’t give away any spoilers, but let’s just say by the time you find out what The Chasers really represent with their insidious agenda, you’ll be white-knuckling it all the way to the climax (uh…the Book’s climax, Naughty Reader ;-), as you stress out about the fates of the main characters.

A sign of a captivating tale (not to be confused with captivating tail) is that it leaves you wanting to find out more about the characters’ lives even after the story is over. With or Without You accomplishes this in spades. It’s haunting, and profoundly resonating. Definitely looking forward to Mr. Farrey’s next novel!

So, in a nutshell, I guess what I’m saying is get thee to a bookstore pronto, People, or order a hard copy through Amazon, or Wi-Fi this sucker through Kindle, (or any other legal way where you actually have to pay the author his well-deserved cut) ASAP! After all, wouldn’t you rather be reading a really good book than this review? Here's a convenient link. www.amazon.com/Without-You-Brian-Farrey/dp/1442406992/ref=sr_1_1  And, no, you can't charge it on my account!

Next up, not sure if I’ll be reviewing another book, or maybe a movie. Yeah, maybe this weekend. A little thing called SUPER 8 (No, it’s NOT a porn, Gutter Rats!) I warn you, if one of those people in the audience decides to text, place phone calls, or didn’t hire a babysitter for their screeching infant, there’s gonna be HELL TO PAY!

May. 16th, 2011

Critique Group: Joyce Sweeney Interview

Originally posted by cynleitichsmith at Critique Group: Joyce Sweeney Interview
Learn about Joyce Sweeney.

[Joyce in black-and-blue with her most famous graduate student, author Alex Flinn. Alex is holding A Kiss In Time (HarperCollins, 2009); see the new cover.]

Thank you for inviting us to peek in on your group! Who are the members?

I have three ongoing critique groups now, one on Tuesday afternoon, one on Wednesday morning and the flagship group on Thursday night, which has been meeting since 1994.

How did you all come together?

I saw the need and gave it a try. I had been teaching five-week writing classes through the Florida Center for the Book, and I would see people making such strides during the five weeks, then almost immediately losing momentum. I realized people need ongoing support and a team of cheerleaders to be able to invest the years of work it usually takes to get published.

How do you structure your schedule, meetings, and menus (if applicable)?

The format of the group is: read and critique, and whoever reads on a given session hands the work in to me for line editing, margin tutorial overall assessment, etc.

I give two grades...you either get an A plus or you don't. A plus means, whatever level you are on, I'm seeing good progress.

We also stop the class and "teach" something if an important topic comes up. So it's both a workshop and a critique group.

It's nice to offer the three time slots so we can accommodate people with day jobs, teachers, stay at home moms, everyone!

The Tuesday people never eat, even if treats are brought in. The Wednesday people who come to my house have a tendency to stop at muffin and doughnut places and bring breakfast.

The Thursday class is best...one of the members, Victoria Allman is a chef...she makes us wonderful treats!

Where do you meet? Why is that space good for y'all?

Tuesdays are at a member's house. Wednesday is my house. Thursday is in downtown Fort Lauderdale in a board room at the Sun Sentinel.

We used public spaces when we started in the nineties, and we've evolved toward meeting in people's homes. But I'm used to the Thursdays being in an office space, and I wouldn't change it. It works for that group.

Word on the street is that you've basically launched the Florida youth writing community! Tell us about your inner teacher/critiquer?

Well, my formula is something like this: the group is invitation-only...I only let people in if I see some real potential that they could get published someday.

Ours are workshops about getting published; you're expected to try at some point, when you have a project that's ready.

In the meantime, I channel my teachers, Daniel Keyes and Walter Tevis, to teach craft as assiduously as a Masters Program would.

SCBWI has had a huge impact on my success rate, feeding me both talented writers and a way for me to meet agents and editors and make referrals.

Finally, the most important thing is...I keep people in the game...getting published takes years longer than people think...without help you get discouraged.

My students will tell you I have a hot-line service...if you feel like quitting, you call me. That's probably the most important thing I do.

Why do you love to mentor/teach?

My father and mother were both talented at teaching, although neither was a teacher by profession. I just get so excited, seeing people progress...and when they make it all the way through the publishing gauntlet to get a book contract...I can't describe the elation I feel.

There's nothing better.

What do you gain from the process?

Well, it benefits me as far as growing my businesses...now I do these workshops, I do weekend retreats with my partner Jamie Morris, and I have a manuscript critiquing service too...people want to work with a teacher who gets people published.

So it's made me a professional success...but as I said above, the personal satisfaction is what it's all about.

Including yourself, who's your big-picture person? Your logic guru? Your poet? The line-editor?

If I understand the question, in each group there are roles that emerge.

A lot of people use critique time to line edit, but I discourage that. On a given day, the writer needs to know, "Am I on track with what I'm trying to do, and if not, why not?"

The group knows each person, their strengths and weaknesses their hopes and fears for the project. I.e., "Should I be writing this in two points of view or not?"

We try to address the big things: "Hey, you had conquered info dumping, but you've had a relapse here." Or, "yes you have a poetic voice, but it's time to get the plot moving."

The beauty of it is they know each other and care about each other, so the critiquing is personal and usually very on target.

And the environment is safe and never harsh. That's my job. We set a tone in every group that we are not competing, one-upping or trying to shame or hurt anyone...we're all in this together and the rising tide lifts all the boats.

What other superpowers have I missed?

I battle the inner critic. The inner critic is evil and makes you quit. I remind people 24-7 how talented they are and how they deserve a shot just as much as the published people out there.

We have such a great situation now because my newer people get to see my students from the past such as Alex Flinn walking around having a magnificent career...they have built in role models right in front of them...that makes it all seem more real and doable.

What have been a few of your most glowing moments? Biggest challenges? The memories that stand out?

Recently I had a glowing moment. People drop out of these groups and give up on writing all the time...sometimes when it's a really talented person, it literally breaks my heart.

I had a student like that, Dennis Bailey. Magnificent writer. Dropped out and I barely had contact with him for 18 years. This year, he came back like the prodigal son...and he is so ready to do it now. That is a thrill for me.

My biggest challenge is holding them back. They see the people who are ready querying agents and the minute they get a credible draft they want to play, too. But it's often best to wait a whole year after you think you're amazing and get a little bit more amazing before you tackle New York.

The memories that stand out are 29 in all...each time we have a "magic bean" ceremony for someone who had a book accepted.

I have tokens in the form of guanacaste seeds, which you can only get when you get a book accepted.

We have a wild pagan ceremony in the group, shaking rattles, etc., and I present the bean. It's very cool.

[Joyce "beans" Stacy B. Davids.]

How has the vibe and/or membership changed over the years?

I'm a lot more confident than when I started. I never dreamed we could get so many people published. I'm more deeply involved with the students. They're more deeply involved with each other. Everyone knows we've got something special, and we all cherish it.

Each of my three groups has its own personality. The Tuesdays are very serious students and are very loving to each other. I call them the Panda Bears. The Wednesdays are noisy and enthusiastic and very ambitious. I call them the Dolphins. The Thursdays carry the responsibility of being the flagship...they have the most people who are published and agented and they are very proud to be in that group. I call them the Lions.

What makes your group special?

The love and support they have for each other and the love they know I have for them.

What do you see in your crystal ball?

I see a magic bean ceremony for Steven Dos Santos, who has written the most amazing dystopia I've ever read.

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